1865: William Henry Olds to Friend Nathan

This letter was written by Corporal William “Henry” Olds (1839-1922) who enlisted on 9 September 1861 at the age of 21 to serve three years in Battery C, 1st Ohio Light Artillery.

Henry was the son of Zenas Olds (1796-1862) and Susanna Ford (1798-1854) of Thompson, Geauga county, Ohio. Henry mentions his brother Sheldon Hiram Olds (1832-1910) in the letter.

In this letter Henry chronicles the movements of Battery C from Savannah in mid-January 1865 through the Carolinas and culminating in the Battle of Bentonville, March 19-21, 1865—the battery’s last engagement.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent. The header image is a painting showing Johnston’s troops on the advance at Bentonville.]


Goldsboro, North Carolina
March 23, 1865

Friend Nathan,

Your long looked for letter has at last arrived & I assure you I was delighted to hear from you again. Well Nathan, we have just ended another campaign and brought up in Goldsboro. We started from Savannah the 18th of January. Were on the march sixty-six days. In that time we marched over five hundred miles through a country filled with swamps and streams. We started to take Charleston and we took it or at least obliged them to leave it although we didn’t go there ourselves. After they left there they concentrated their forces in front of us and endeavored to stop us but they got more than they bargained for. We gave them a pretty good sound whipping. We were engaged all through the fight. We fired 271 shots. You ought to see how we piled them up. They charged our battery nine times or at least charged the line right where we were and were repulsed each time with heavy loss. Our loss was light as we had put some rails in front of our pieces to protect us from the musketry. We shall probably stay here two or three weeks. Then I think we will start for Richmond. Them Mr. Lee will have to climb from there.

I must close as I want to write some to Adaline. Hope you will not put off writing  so long again. From a friend, — W. H. Olds

Dear Sister,

It was with much pleasure that I perused the few lines you wrote me. I didn’t know that you were in Ohio. In fact, I had not heard from you so long that I did not know whether you were among the living or not. I hardly remember when I heard from [brother] Sheldon last. It was sometime last summer. I should liked to of come and seen you when I was at home and did intend to until I learned that you were some ways from the railroad and I feared my short stay would not permit of it. I expect to be at home now before a great while as I think this war is going to close before long. I should like to see that girl of yours. I suppose she is one of the smart ones.

The Savannah ladies I left all of them just as I found them. About J. S., I hardly know what you mean. Report has been marrying me for the past five or six years but they have not got the knot tied yet. I think probably I shall go up Montville way again. I recon there is a right nice chance there.

I see that I am getting near the bottom of the sheet so I shall have to close for this time. I hope you will write to me often and not put it off so long again.

From your brother, — W. H. Olds

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